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‘Patterns of misconduct’: Lawsuits filed against Caldwell officers amid FBI investigation

Body cam footage from the Caldwell Police Department shows the encounter between Val Palmer, Det. Andrew Heitzman and other Caldwell officers on Sept. 13, 2021. | BY SARAH A. MILLER
BOISE (Idaho Statesman) – Six former and current Caldwell Police Department officers and one Meridian police officer have been sued by Treasure Valley residents accusing them of civil rights violations, excessive force and an unlawful arrest.
Val Palmer and his wife, Coleen Palmer, filed a lawsuit against five Caldwell police officers after Val Palmer was arrested in September. Jeremy Mattson filed his lawsuit against two law enforcement officers, within the Caldwell and Meridian police departments, after he was arrested by them in March 2020.
But the two lawsuits have one common thread: The plaintiffs said they believe Treasure Valley officers violated their rights. Both lawsuits are invoking their right to a jury trial.
The complaints come on the heels of an FBI investigation into officers in the Caldwell Police Department. The U.S. government charged Lt. Joseph Hoadley in March and an additional charge was filed Thursday. Caldwell city officials said the investigation is ongoing.
RELATED | FBI charges Caldwell officer with hitting a man while on duty
In an email, Caldwell Clerk Debbie Geyer told the Idaho Statesman the two lawsuits were filed with the city and submitted to Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, which insures cities and counties in Idaho. Both lawsuits were filed with the U.S. District Court for Idaho.
A lawyer in the Palmers’ lawsuit, Adam Olsen, said the allegations were unrelated to the FBI investigation, but he is investigating other possible litigation that shows systemic issues within the Caldwell Police Department. He said the department repeatedly failed to supervise officers and implement policy.
“As we were gathering facts about this matter, there were indications that there were patterns of misconduct,” Olsen told the Statesman by phone.
On a Monday morning in September, Val Palmer was driving to the gym when he pulled his Toyota Prius over on the Franklin Road overpass in Caldwell ⁠— he was out of gas.
Hours later, he was tackled to the ground by five police officers, and later would be placed on a mental health hold at West Valley Medical Center, according to the complaint.
According to a police report obtained by the Statesman, Caldwell Detective Andrew Heitzman saw Val Palmer stretching his arms in the air, “one arm at a time.” Val Palmer then went to the overpass railing and put a leg on the concrete barrier, according to the report.
Heitzman believed Val Palmer was trying to climb the overpass to take his own life, he wrote in the report.
In body camera footage provided to the Statesman, Heitzman can be seen approaching Val Palmer and ordering him to sit. Palmer told Heitzman that he was stretching and waiting for his wife to bring him gas to fill up his tank.
Body camera video shows Val Palmer complained about being asked to sit down while waiting for gas. He told Heitzman he had bad experiences with the police. Four officers arrived on the scene to assist Heitzman.
While Val Palmer was sitting on the curb, surrounded by two officers, he attempted to stand up as his wife was walking up with the gas canister. Before he could stand up, the officers tackled him to the ground.
His wife, Coleen Palmer, saw him get tackled. She pleaded with officers to stop and told them Val Palmer was waiting for gas. The officers put handcuffs on him and walked him to an officer’s vehicle. Palmer was placed on a mental health hold and arrested for resisting arrest, documents show.
Coleen Palmer told Heitzman on the body camera video that her husband has schizophrenia and a poor relationship with the police. Heitzman told her that her husband was arguing with the police and “not listening to us.”
“You tackled my husband, who was waiting for gas in his car,” Coleen Palmer said on the video.
In the video, Heitzman walked away from her then and called her a “f—ing b—-” to the other officers.
The Palmers’ lawsuit was filed against Caldwell Police Officers Paul Carranza, Adam Matthews, Matthew Rapattoni, Kylie White and Heitzman.
Val Palmer said the officers violated his civil rights when they detained him and placed him on a mental health hold. Palmer also said the officers falsely arrested him for disorderly conduct.
While Val Palmer questioned the officers about why they were ordering him to sit and why multiple officers were on the scene, Olsen said he had a constitutional right to ask those questions.
“When Mr. Palmer and his wife expressed concerns about what was happening, that was not resisting. You have a First Amendment right to express your concerns,” Olsen told the Statesman.
Olsen told the Statesman he was surprised at how quickly the situation escalated.
“It was how quickly it turned into a detective talking to an individual to multiple officers being called to the scene and just escalating,” Olsen said.
He said he sees a trend in how the department is supervising its officers.
Olsen has been following the FBI investigation into Caldwell police officers, but he said he saw indications in the Palmer case that showed “patterns of misconduct” before the investigation was announced.
Caldwell Attorney Mark Hilty declined to comment on the Palmers’ pending lawsuit.
Jeremy Mattson was asleep in the middle of a vacant lot near a radio tower north of Middleton and Sand Hallow when he was awakened by a “sharp, fire-like pain.” Caldwell Detective Aron Streibel had just shot him with a 40 mm eXact iMpact round — or a less-lethal bullet.
The Caldwell Police Department and four other agencies arrested Mattson after police alleged he led law enforcement on two vehicle pursuits. Police said Mattson also had active arrest warrants at the time for charges of felony domestic battery and an outstanding arrest for failure to appear in court.
Earlier that day, on March 14, 2020, Idaho State Police located Mattson’s vehicle near the intersection of Dewey and El Paso roads in Gem County, according to a narrative written by Detective Nathan Rohrback.
Before checking the vehicle, additional officers were called to the scene, including Rohrback and Detective Sean King, Detective Sgt. Ryan Bendawald, Detective Cpl. Pete Troyer and Streibel from the Caldwell Police Department, according to the narrative. A public records request by the Statesman confirmed King and Bendawald resigned from the department last fall.
Drone cameras spotted Mattson lying face down near a radio tower. Rohrback in the narrative said the drone operator reported “bodily twitching.” King reported in his narrative that Mattson made some arm movements.
Once Mattson’s location was confirmed, incident command — which was commanded by an Idaho State Police sergeant — devised a plan.
Streibel drove an armored truck toward a fenced area near Mattson to “provide cover for the officers who were approaching on foot behind the truck,” Streibel wrote in his narrative, which was obtained by the Statesman through a records request. A team consisted of five individuals — one of whom was Meridian Police Department Officer and K-9 handler Daniel Vogt.
The entire scene was covered by snipers, Rohrback wrote. He was assigned to the sniper team and wasn’t able to see all of the arrest due to sagebrush and weeds.
Streibel, at the request of Vogt, shot Mattson in the left buttocks with an impact munition, he stated.
“(Mattson) rolled further towards the middle of the lot thinking his pants were on fire, and became aware of the several officers present,” according to the lawsuit.
Streibel stated that he commanded Mattson to slowly rise to his knees and stand. He then had Mattson lift his shirt with one hand. At that point, Streibel stated he “did not see any weapons in his waistband.”
The lawsuit states Mattson was also asked to spin in a circle, and that drone footage indicated Mattson had no weapons.
Streibel asked Mattson to then lie down again while officers cut the lock to the fence to gain entry. Streibel said Mattson complied with all his commands.
While Mattson was on his stomach on the ground, waiting for additional commands, at least six officers, a “barking K-9” and a sniper team were all “trained on Mattson,” according to the lawsuit.
Once the lock was cut, Streibel said, Vogt asked him to switch from his less-lethal gun to his SWAT rifle, and told Mattson to kneel so the arresting team could move in.
According to the lawsuit, Mattson was instructed to walk backward on uneven ground to leave the fenced area and had his fingers interlocked on the back of his head. Vogt then “released his K-9” on Mattson, according to Streibel’s narrative. Vogt declined to comment.
“Although Jeremy Mattson did not exhibit any aggressive or threatening behavior … Vogt released his K-9, which attacked Mattson’s right lower back and abdomen, causing another burning, tearing pain,” according to the lawsuit.
As the dog latched onto Mattson for roughly 17 seconds, he was lying on his stomach “compliant” until he was handcuffed and police brought Mattson to his feet, according to the lawsuit.
The dog attacked him until four officers applied the weight of their bodies and shields onto Mattson to detain him, according to the lawsuit. The complaint said “one of the officers forcibly hit (Mattson) on the side of his head with his knee” while the additional officers were on his back and legs.
Once in custody, paramedics at the scene began to treat Mattson for the dog bites when an officer walked by the back of the ambulance and said, “Hey, how’d that feel?” according to the lawsuit.
Mattson looked up at the officer who was holding a long, rifle-like firearm.
According to the lawsuit, the officer continued with a grin, “When I shot you.”
Mattson’s attorney Susan Lynn Mimura filed the lawsuit on his behalf in March. According to the complaint, Streibel used “excessive” and “unreasonable” force and violated federal law. The complaint also alleges Vogt used excessive force. The city of Caldwell is named in the complaint, too. (The lawsuit incorrectly identifies Vogt as a Canyon County Sheriff’s Office employee.)
According to the lawsuit, a total of 15 officers from the Gem County Sheriff’s Office, Caldwell Police Department, Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, Meridian Police Department and Idaho State Police were present to arrest Mattson.
Mimura, a Meridian-based lawyer, did not respond to multiple phone calls and an email seeking comment.
Mattson, 45, is in custody at the South Idaho Correctional Institution, a minimum-security prison in Kuna, according to Idaho Department of Correction online records. He is in prison for three felonies, according to court records, including intimidating a witness; possession of a controlled substance; and fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer in a motor vehicle.
Attorney Tyler Williams, who is representing Streibel, Vogt and the city of Caldwell, declined to comment citing pending litigation. A spokesperson with Meridian police also declined to comment.
Reporter Ian Max Stevenson contributed.
The post ‘Patterns of misconduct’: Lawsuits filed against Caldwell officers amid FBI investigation appeared first on East Idaho News.

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